When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. >> Matthew 14:13-21
You Tired? Don’t Worry, God Can Still Use You.
Let’s jump right in. The thing I find most interesting in this passage is that Jesus was basically trying to get some alone time. I don’t why it’s so interesting to me, but it is. Maybe it’s because I don’t imagine Jesus being afraid, and his desire to get away could be perceived as “running” from Herod. Or, I don’t imagine Jesus as being very despondent, and yet his “withdrawing” could be perceived as a chance to grieve the loss John the Baptist.
That’s what Jesus had heard, you know, in verse 13 — about the details of John the Baptist’ death. From a human perspective, I think we can all understand wanting to get to a solitary place after news of the death of a cousin. And not just any cousin, but one who got you. One who understood. One who labored with you to spread a ministry that would change the entire world. If I look at like that, then maybe I can see how Jesus might want to take a minute.
I do the same thing when I get horrible news. I just want to steal away somewhere and collect/process my thoughts and crazy, untrustworthy emotions. I just need a minute. That’s it. Just a short time to recharge and overcome how exasperated, how heavy I suddenly feel. So yeah, the scripture doesn’t say what Jesus was thinking, but I can imagine. If Jesus truly was tempted in every way, then he must have had to fight off certain thoughts and feelings. There must’ve have been moments when doubt and fear threatened his mind. Because those are the very temptations we face.
I imagine Jesus, looking at the motley crew of twelve traveling with him, thinking about the progress John the Baptist had made for the ministry. Unlike John, the twelve just didn’t get it. John understand who Jesus was and the mission he’d been sent to accomplish. To lose him must’ve hurt deeply. Even more that he was family – a cousin with whom he enjoyed a connection since that leap in the womb. Death had hit home. This wasn’t a young man or woman dying from disease like so many of the stories we find in the scripture. This is a family member. An ordained trailblazer of the gospel. A martyr — who died a shameful death for furthering Jesus and his ministry.
Yeah. I imagine this was a potential low for Jesus. He needed a minute.
No Rest For The Weary
But alone time is not what Jesus got. A time to grieve was not in the cards. At this tired, weary time, when Jesus needed the rest, he is greeted with a mass of people looking to him for help. And when I say mass, I mean mass — five thousand plus. And though I imagine Jesus is low, his compassion is still stirred. Note that he is not stirred by obligation or duty. It’s compassion. He had every right to send the people away, to ask them to come back tomorrow. He was grieving a death in the family. But he did not ask them to leave. His compassion would not allow him.
How odd. At a time when the case could be made that Jesus was in need of some compassion, he instead opens a compassionate heart to others’ needs.
More odd, perhaps, is my belief that God was giving Jesus exactly what he needed. As I imagine Jesus surveying the overwhelming crowd pressing on him and his disciples, I think maybe he saw something more than a bustling crowd full of sickness and disease. This was just a micro-chasm of the world to whom he had been sent. A mass collective of people with varying symptoms and sin diseases. He saw his mission — so grand a task, and so few resources. So much to do with so little to do it with. And I think it energized him.
John the Baptist had come and gone, and now it was left to Jesus and the twelve. This moment, this understanding of the odds stacked against him and his disciples was precisely the point God meant to address. I believe Jesus needed this miracle. I believe it was marrow to his bones, a ministering to his heart. To say loosely, this miracle was God telling Jesus, “Don’t worry Son, I got you!”
Jesus needed to see that what he’d been given — the twelve disciples — were enough. He needed his disciples to see that, if God could feed five thousand plus with two fish and five loves, he could also feed a countless number around the world with the spiritual food they crave through them. Twelve baskets? Not a coincidence. Those baskets are the disciples. If two fish and five loaves could feed thousands, how much could twelve baskets full of leftovers feed? How many more will be spiritually nourished through the scraps leftover from Jesus’ earthly ministry — scraps found in the hearts of these disciples.
More than food for the people, more than a teaching lesson for the disciples, I believe this miracle strengthened Jesus. I believe God used it to pick Jesus up, to minister to him in a trying time. But Jesus could only receive it because his compassion was greater than his exasperation. His love for God, and his love for people, and for the mission God had laid before him, took him two steps past tired into something amazing.
In John 4, Jesus says, “my nourishment comes from doing the will of the Father.”
May it be the same for us. May it be that in the moments of discouragement, sadness, anger and fear, that we are moved in greater measure by the compassion of God living in and through us. May it be that in our weary, exhausted and tired moments, we stay connected to the Almighty Father, who is the giver of good gifts and the author of life.
And who knows, maybe we’ll find something amazing two steps past our tired and weariness as well.
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